The Cooperative Education or "Co-op" Program through the School of Engineering remains the highest priority experience for undergraduates. Approximately 40-50 percent of our department students take advantage of this unique program, which connects undergrads directly with industry for real-world experience.
Students spend three or four rotations of four months apiece employed by our participating Co-op corporations. They gain understanding into their field of interest—as well as an average salary of $3366 per month. By alternating Co-op and class terms, students gain strong fundamentals and invaluable insight into the inner workings of the chemical engineering profession. Students involved in the Co-op Program improve communication, interviewing, and lab skills, enhance their equipment knowledge, become familiar with economics, and gain new maturity and practical experience.
As a result, our students are in-demand. Becoming a part of the Co-op Program provides graduates with excellent opportunities to obtain multiple employment offers at higher starting salaries. Almost 100 percent of our Co-op students find placement upon graduation.
The cooperative education option may begin during either the sophomore or junior year or as early as summer freshman year and is completed during the senior year. Transfer students are also encouraged to participate in cooperative education.
The Co-op office works individually with each student applicant to provide resume and interviewing assistance, as well as specialized job development. When requested, the co-op office tries to find a suitable co-op position in or near the student's hometown.
All candidates are approved by faculty coordinators who continue to work with them during their tenure in the program. The faculty coordinators also visit many company sites and assist in the evaluation of assignments. In addition, the program has the support of other key University offices including registration, financial aid, and housing.
Additionally, thanks to the salaries earned during co-op cycles, many students can forgo part-time employment while on school rotations, giving them more time to devote to academics or extracurricular activities. In fact, a study completed by the co-op office showed that, for over two-thirds of participants, grade point averages increased significantly.
The combination of these benefits makes the program an excellent recruiting tool for participating companies. Employers are able to identify prospective engineers early in their academic careers, the optimum time to evaluate and train these candidates for opportunities after graduation. Other employer participants utilize the program as a cost-effective means of completing projects and adding enthusiastic talent to their work teams.
Participating companies range from small to large, public to private, Pittsburgh-based to international. Pitt co-op students have relocated to 25 states and international sites including Korea, Canada, Mexico, and Germany.